Dwelling in His Presence-Part 1
|By: Nancy Missler; ©2003|
|The question Nancy Missler addresses in this article is, “Why are so many Christians running to and fro across the land trying to experience the presence of God if, all the time He dwells within?”|
“Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who shall stand in His Holy Place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; Who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity…” (Psalm 24:3-4)
The Journey Inward
If you have ever done a study of the Tabernacle, you will remember the floor plan of Solomon’s Temple and how God dwelt in the Holy of Holies, behind the veil.
Now, however, Scripture tells us God, the Holy Spirit, dwells in the Holy Place of our hearts. Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection on our behalf, the veil has been rent and the way to God opened. This means that believers now have free access to God at any time and may commune with Him as long as they like. This is not only our desire, but God’s desire also. The Old Testament tells us that He came precisely to dwell with us, to fellowship with us and to commune with us. This intimacy with God is said to take place at the deepest level of our being where God now dwells.
Some would call this inward journey towards experiential oneness with God in our spirit “Christian mysticism.” Mysticism simply means a soul in contact with or in union with God. Mysticism has had a very controversial history, although it did play a vital role in the early church. Listen to how the Encyclopedia Britannica expresses it, “The mystical aspect of early Christianity finds its fullest expression in the letters of Paul and the Apostle John. For Paul and John, the mystical experience always meant union with Christ. It was Paul’s supreme desire to know Christ and to be united with Him. Thus, the recurring phrase, ‘in Christ,’ [throughout Scripture] implies personal union, and a participation in Christ’s death and resurrection.”
True Biblical mysticism is simply contacting God in the deepest part of our being where He now dwells. Christian mysticism, however, does not mean experientialism. It does not mean visions or voices or dreams, but simply an all-pervasive awareness of God’s presence. It means experiencing His nearness, His guidance, His revelations, His anointing, His Love, His Power, His peace and His joy. The only way to experience these things is not though techniques, introspection or experience, but humility, endurance and love for God.
The question that needs to be addressed then is: “Why are so many Christians running to and fro across the land trying to experience the presence of God if, all the time, He dwells within? Why don’t we simply turn our attention inward, not self-ward, but inward to where God permanently resides?”
As Fenelon said (400 years ago):
- “All of us were made for God. But when people are told to seek God within, it’s like telling them to go to another planet! What is farther away and more unknown than the bottom of our own heart!”I know how difficult it is in our busy, bustling and hustling lives, to abandon ourselves to God and seek to experience His presence. All the noise and clamor of our everyday lives try to constantly turn our attention elsewhere, and it becomes almost impossible to squeeze out time to spend with Him.
Jesus told us that we are “not of this world” and that our kingdom is still coming. Now this does not mean that we are to turn our back on life and take flight from the world by secluding and sequestering ourselves and seeking only Him. There are times that we must do so but, in general, He wants us to “occupy” by living the reality of this life. To occupy means “to dwell in or to reside in.” Jesus wants us to dwell in and reside in this world, but at the same time, always have an inner attitude of abandonment to His will. This is the “inward” love-relationship that God desires and the only thing that will bring us the “fulness of Christ” that we are searching for.
William Law expresses it so beautifully in his book The Spirit of Love: “The one true way of dying to self wants no monasteries or pilgrimages. It is the way of patience, humility and (total) resignation to God.” God’s primary purpose for each of us is to experience intimacy with Him, and then to share that Love with all those we come in contact with.
Is it possible in our modern times and our busy lives to live in constant communion and fellowship with God? Will He really teach, guide and commune with each of us personally? Can we actually meet with Him and dwell in His presence?
The Bible says we can, and we must. “Surely… the upright [the just, the righteous and the straight] shall dwell in Thy presence” (Psalm 140:13).
How Do We Get There?
The Psalms tell us that the only ones who are able to abide in His temple are those who have “clean hands, and a pure heart” and “that walketh uprightly, and… speaketh the truth” (Psalm 24:3-4; 15:1-2). In other words, the only ones who will abide in God’s presence are the ones who are faithful, upright, just, holy and straight.
- Blessed is the man whom Thou choosest, and causest to approach unto Thee, That he may dwell in the courts: we shall be satisfied with the goodness of Thy house, even of Thy holy temple. (Psalm 65:4)Once we accept Christ’s death on the cross on our behalf, Scripture says we are made “positionally” righteous, holy, just and upright. “Experientially,” however, it’s another story! (Naturally, we are far from being any of these things.) Therefore, since God is holy and cannot fellowship or commune with anything that is not holy, He must first make us holy through the sanctification process. “Having, therefore, these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1).
Something important to keep in mind is that the faithfulness, the uprightness and the holiness that are spoken of in these Scriptures are Christ’s, not our own. If our outer man (our soul) has been broken and our spirit purified and strengthened, then these attributes of God can also become ours. However, if the soulish things in our lives have not been cut away, separated and dis-united from the spiritual, then we won’t experience these things either.
Our journey inward towards “experiential” union with God is what the dark night is all about. This is the time that God burns up and melts away all our egotism and self-orientation and prepares us totally for Himself. All our own self-made strengths, self-oriented energies and self-centered activities must be consumed by His Love.
Again, the first thing we must remember is that only God can bring this union about. We are holy and pure only to the degree of “self” that we have allowed God to cut away. After “self” (for the most part) has been severed, no separation will remain between God and ourselves, and for the moment, we can experience “oneness” with Him.
Remember, our greatest failure is not recognizing who God is. He is Holy! Therefore, the only way we can approach Him is to become sanctified and holy. Anything short of His holiness will not be able to stand in His presence.
- Encyclopaedia Britannica, Christianity: History of Christian Mysticism, Vol. 16, page 372.
- Francois Fenelon, The Seeking Heart, p. 180